I was celebrating the Lord’s Supper one Sunday about 4 years ago. I said the dismissal, “Now may this Body and Blood strengthen and preserve you in the true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.” As I said, “Amen,” I heard a visiting communicant say in a loud, affirming voice, “Amen!” I was taken aback.
The woman with the bold “Amen” is named Flynn. She was taught to say this by her home pastor. The “Amen” in the dismissal belongs to the people he had taught them, and he was right. Although neither TLH nor LW have it that way, the LSB does.
Flynn’s “amen” not only took me aback but it took me back to my days as an Army Reserve chaplain. I did the General Protestant service at a Graves Registration Company. (It is a fact, that those who do Graves Registration in the Army are overwhelmingly either African Americans or Puerto Ricans. The entire Puerto Rican Army Reserve consists of Graves Registration units.) In any event, the first time I preached for my Graves Registration Company, the same sermon I preached in my LCMS parish, “Amen” sounded loudly from the congregation at appropriate places. It was exhilarating. Someone was actually listening and getting it. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that from then on I would yearn for the “Amen.” I would even catch myself pandering for it as you will find Baptist preachers on the radio doing.
But this takes nothing away from the appropriateness of the congregation saying the “Amen” at the Dismissal. We have recently started it here. It keeps the versicle/response, the rhythm, the pitch and catch nature of the Divine Service going. “This is the Body and Blood of your God to strengthen and preserve you in the true faith,” I say. And the people respond, “This is most certainly true; you’re neither a lunatic nor alone Pastor. Yea, yea, this shall be so Pastor. You’re right; I am strengthened and preserved by this Body and Blood here and now in our time and at this place.”
The real point here is if not for the brave lady, Flynn, speaking up, and properly saying her “Amen” I would have continued keeping it from the people. She was not at the first table. She had to have noticed that my people weren’t saying it, but she said it anyway. It was a revelatory moment for me. I saw that there really was something divine, holy, special transpiring between pastor and people precisely at the moment the Devil would have me believe I’m all alone up there.
I now picture it this way. When I say the utterly unthinkable that not only is this Bread Body and this Wine Blood but that it has the power to strengthen and preserve sinners for everlasting life, and the group of sinners kneeling before the altar says, “Amen!”, the devils shudder….as well they should.